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What to judge job quoters on
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
May 4, 2008

[In this thread I specifically ask for opinions]

G'day everyone

About a week ago I posted a potential job on ProZ.com and got about 100 applicants in three languages. I was wondering if you could tell me what you think are valid things to judge applicants on. I acknowledge that most applicants do not have English as a first language although they claim to translate from it.

I gave a sample text to translate. The sample is short, contains only easy words and does not contain deliberate pitfalls. The purpose of the sample was to weed out people who wrote spelling errors, old words (for those expats who haven't been in the home country for many decades), slang words (presumably common in newly graduated translators), or simply incorrect translations. I won't be surprised if two thirds of the applicants "pass" the sample text with flying colours.

As for the rest, I have only the résumés and the actual e-mails from the applicants to judge them on. Price is important but I'd rather pay more if the candidate is good (no, that's not right... what I mean is that I won't take a low quote if it is a poor applicant).

Please tell me which of these things you consider acceptable things to judge a translator on.

* No capitalisation: "hi, i'm a translator in english-french. i do mathematics, biology and literary translations.
* Sloppy capitalisation: "Hi, i'm a translator in English-french. i do mathematics, Biology and Literary translations.
* Incorrect capitalisation: "Hi, i'm a translator in english-french. I do mathematics, biology and literary translations."

* Sloppy punctuation: "Hi , I'm a translator in English- French. I do mathematics ,biology and literary translations ."
* Incorrect punctuation: "Hi , I'm a translator in English - French . I do mathematics , biology and literary translations ."

* Weird spacing: "Hi, I'm a translator in English- French. I do mathematics ,biology and literary translations." (edit: ProZ.com's forum software removes the extra spacing, sorry)

* Using single newline characters to indicate new paragraphs (instead of using blank lines).
* All one paragraph (no, I checked, this is not a limitation of the text field box).

* Incorrect letter forms: eg using "Best Regards" instead of "Best regards".

* Not mentioning first name, or not mentioning name at all (eg giving only ProZ.com username).

* Writing certain information in the subject line only, and not in the body of the message (eg language combination, rate etc).

* Not adhering to the format specified: in my job posting, I requested that the sample be delivered in a two column table (the source text was a single paragraph with words separated by comma), but a number of translators delivered the sample in paragraph format.

* Delivering the sample in the required format, but with sloppy layout (eg not disabling autocapitalisation, not removing the commas in a list where it would seem prudent to do so, etc).

* Neglecting to mention required information, eg native language and locality (specifically requested in the jobs posting).

* Failure to mention the language, and failure to mention the currency quoted in.

Your thoughts? What are valid things to judge job posters on?

[Edited at 2008-05-04 14:01]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:43
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Two points May 4, 2008

Hi Samuel,

I don't mean to discourage your in-depth analysis of these criteria and their relative importance. However, I value translation quality above any/all of these, and typically use that as the single criterion to judge those to whom I outsource work.

Also, you wrote:

"I acknowledge that most applicants do not have English as a first language although they claim to translate from it."

Isn't that normal? They are supposed to translate *from English* *into* their native languages, aren't they? Or did you mean English as one's primary non-native working language?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree perfectly May 4, 2008

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:
I value translation quality above any/all of these, and typically use that as the single criterion to judge those to whom I outsource work.


Certainly, but when faced with thirty applicants, don't you agree that some of the above-mentioned factors may be used as an indication of whether a translator is likely to produce a high quality translation? I agree that translation quality is important -- that is why I'm trying to figure how one would guess if a translator's quality is likely to be high. I don't have unlimited funds to do pre-testing of translators, see.

In the above job I'll probably give a longer, more realistic test translation to the top five candidates (paid for at their usual rates), but how can I determine which five is the top five?

"I acknowledge that most applicants do not have English as a first language although they claim to translate from it."

Isn't that normal?


Yes, that's normal, and what I mean is that I realise that the incorrect language in their e-mails may simply be a reflection of that. You should tell me if you think it is unreasonable of me to expect people writing in their "from"-languages to write English e-mails as good as I would.


[Edited at 2008-05-04 14:24]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:43
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Qualified to judge? May 4, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
I agree that translation quality is important -- that is why I'm trying to figure how one would guess if a translator's quality is likely to be high.


I see your three target languages are neither English nor Afrikaans. Unless you are somewhat fluent in them, I don't think (with all due respect) that you would make a good judge of translation quality in this case. You may spot technical issues (or lask thereof) such as punctuation, capitalisation, and/or layout, but the underlying text meaning would stay hidden. So, in your shoes I would worry about getting someone to review these samples. Yes, I know your budget is limited, but I don't see another way to **ensure** quality.

One cheap, albeit rather unreliable, way is to judge candidates by overall qualifications. I would hate to be in a situation like that, and besides, you already have those sample translations to go on...

Samuel Murray wrote:
Yes, that's normal, and what I mean is that I realise that the incorrect language in their e-mails may simply be a reflection of that. You should tell me if you think it is unreasonable of me to expect people writing in their "from"-languages to write English e-mails as good as I would.


Sorry, you lost me there.

[Edited at 2008-05-04 14:34]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:43
English to French
+ ...
I have never outsourced, but here's what I think May 4, 2008

As a translator, I have quoted on jobs in the past, replied to e-mails from people interested in my services and made "cold calls" to agencies and companies many times. That's a lot of prospection e-mails!

I have also discussed outsourcing with some of my better clients with whom I have a good enough relationship to discuss our respective businesses. Some of these clients have expressed their frustrations about people who approach them to work with them who are unable to put together the simplest prospection e-mail.

Complaints that I have heard most often about such e-mails were about incorrect spelling and grammar. Either the translator sounded like they didn't speak the language they were writing in well enough to translate from/into it, or they simply didn't have good writing skills. Some of my clients were also surprised that some e-mail they receive is well written (choice of vocabulary, well-written sentences, etc.) but disregarded many spelling and grammar rules.

Most of my clients have told me that even though they don't doubt that these translators are good translators, such mistakes make a bad impression and they feel uneasy giving work to these translators. It is not necessarily the quality of the translation that they feel uneasy about, but rather the fact that they know that people who cannot put together a simple prospection e-mail seem to be people who are unable to follow rules and instructions, and therefore may be also unable to respect deadlines and such.

If I was an outsourcer, I probably would pay attention to all of the points you explained above. I sincerely believe that a good translator (who is essentially a writer) should be able to write. Of course, one typo in an e-mail would probably not make me strike out that particular translator, but people who consistently misuse or abuse linguistic rules in an e-mail probably wouldn't be at the top of my list either.

As for quality, you are right. If quality matters to you more than price (you also have a client to satisfy), e-mail can be used as an indicator. I know I have been chosen for some jobs based on my e-mails. A well-written e-mail gives translators a great deal of credibility - and nowadays, outsourcers hardly have anything else to judge our skills by, unless of course they have us do a test.

I would say that, in your case, the best solution to weed them out would be a combination of e-mail and test translation. If the test translation is a shining example of quality but the e-mail leaves room for improvement, that candidate may pass - but only after those who had a perfect grade on their test AND sent an exemplary e-mail. My worry, again, wouldn't be quality per se but rather the ability to follow directions and use grammar/spelling rules properly.

It takes much more than the ability to translate to be a good translator. I know that if I were an outsourcer, I would control many aspects of my translators' work (how questions are dealt with, CAT tool settings, work methods in case I am working with a team so that everything is streamlined and compatible, etc.). If the translator is great at translation but cannot follow rules, than I might as well work with bad translators.

My two unqualified cents.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oh, I certainly will get a reviewer (or two) May 4, 2008

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:
So, in your shoes I would worry about getting someone to review these samples.


Hmm, I created the impression that I would be judging the samples myself. Sorry, no, the samples will all be reviewed by a native speaker (or two). From the reviews of the samples I would be able to see which translators are really, really bad... but I won't be able to see which of the rest are potentially very good. It would surprise me if more than a third of the translators drop out because of errors in their first sample translations (but perhaps I'm too optimistic).


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Satto (Roberto)  Identity Verified
Colombia
Local time: 03:43
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree May 4, 2008

In essence, I think you are on the right track.

I cannot believe people in our business simply cannot follow instructions. For me this is one of the first things that throws me off. If I ask specifically to quote via the Proz quote page why do I get hundreds of emails to my personal box?

There are many things not exactly related to translation that a quoter fails to comply with, so that is another issue that makes me not consider certain candidate. If I ask for a quote in Dollars why does someone quote in Euros?

If I ask for a sample translation, why did they not send it?

Why would a need a pageful of "accomplishments" on X type of work, if I am asking for specific experience on Y type of work?

How could I accept people blatantly not following my requests?

The last thing that makes me look to another candidate is bad spelling, grammatical mistakes and other type of mistakes.

Sadly, I'd say that 70% of quoter's fall into the above categories..now lets get serious!

And up to here, I have not even looked at their translation abilities, so take your choice....


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Marina Soldati  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:43
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My criteria May 4, 2008

I´ve never posted a job, but I would reject all applications which don´t meet the following criteria:

- Provide all and only the information requested. If an applicant can`t follow instructions when applying, he/she won´t be able to follow the specific instructions for the job.
- Correct use of punctuation, capitalization, spacing, etc. of the language used in the application. This shows that he/she cares about details and will do so in the translation.
- Provide the sample text in the format requested. Again, if he/she can´t follow instructions when applying...

I wouldn´t take into account if the words he/she uses are outdated or uncommon, in case he/she´s writing in Spanish and it isn´t his/her native language.

Only if a candidate meets all these requeriments, I´ll judge his/her sample translation.

Another criterion would be whether he/she addresses me as Ms Soldati or simply writes Hi! But this is a very personal point of view.

Hope this helps
Marina

PS: I´m not a native speaker, so, please, forgive any grammar mistake. I try not to make them if I´m applying for job.




[Edited at 2008-05-04 15:22]


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
capitalization, spelling errors, etc. May 4, 2008

Samuel,

I'm interested that you posted this because lately I've been irked (probably far more than I ought to be) by people who post KudoZ questions that contain nonstandard capitalization and spelling errors.

I edit English texts written in English, and to me, it seems very unprofessional for someone not to make the effort to write well and follow the rules. The way we write demonstrates our respect for language.

So, if I were posting a job (which I've only done once), I'd disqualify people for all the reasons you list. If they are conscientious, serious professionals, they shouldn't make those sorts of mistakes.

If someone did a particularly apt translation sample, and there was a comma placed as you illustrated (xxxx, yyyy and ,zzzz), I might overlook that as a sign of haste in trying to get a bid in, but that is the only lapse that I'd ignore.

Another gripe I have (if I may unburden myself) are posts made here to the various forums in which someone writes that he or she has applied for an into-English translation assignment (and gotten the job), but the person's English is so "cracked," I can barely understand what he or she wrote.

I'm not arguing for a "language police," but it makes me so mad, I just want to jump up and down.

And now I'll sign off, with the hope that I haven't made any typos!


Patricia


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:43
French to English
Read the rubric ! May 4, 2008

.... as my secondary school French teacher used to say.

As an occasional poster, I too have had to wrestle with the issue of how to judge responses. The jobs I have outsourced are usually Eng-> xxxx.

The inability to follow simple instructions puts the application in the bin before I even get to the test translation. I have glossaries that must be followed. I may be asking for file A before file B. I need confidence that these things will happen.

So, as others have already said, this is the key criterion

I'm not unduly bothered by the quality of English in the emails. I'm not asking for English. I would probably be more concerned if I were.

However, I have to say that I have reviewed/proof-read translations with impeccable spelling and grammar, and that were nonetheless unmitigated bilge from start to finish. I agree these things are important, but as a selection criterion...? Tread carefully, I say.

[Edited at 2008-05-04 17:56]


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:43
Member (2003)
German to English
Glass houses... May 4, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:

You should tell me if you think it is unreasonable of me to expect people writing in their "from"-languages to write English e-mails as good as I would.


[Edited at 2008-05-04 14:24]


**cough** As WELL as I would.



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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:43
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
From my own experience of outsourcing May 4, 2008

Hi, Samuel,

This is my experience:

Many people who answer are beginners in the translation industry. The general population, including students at university, appears to find it acceptable and customary to write without capitalisation and also disregard punctuation. People who write in this way may be able to write correctly, but they are evidently beginners in the translation industry, or still students, and do not realise the necessity of correct capitalisation and punctuation when conducting business. You would typically not get an ideal translation from these people, due to their lack of experience, and you may also find that the next thing they do is start a thread to ask how to write an invoice.

I would therefore disregard all of these applications.

Neglecting to mention the essential information which is normally required for concluding business would similarly be an indicator of lack of experience as a translator.

I would therefore disregard all of these applications as well.

Mentioning essential information only in the subject line of the e-mail may, however, be the result of being "trained" in this way by translation agencies who have this specific requirement. The people who do this may therefore have some experience.

I personally will not do business with anyone who is not business-like enough to use his/her real name.

Best regards,

Astrid


[Edited at 2008-05-04 18:38]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No glass house here May 4, 2008

Steven Sidore wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
You should tell me if you think it is unreasonable of me to expect people writing in their "from"-languages to write English e-mails as good as I would.

**cough** As WELL as I would.


No glass house here... I would not expect a second-language speaker to write as good (or as well) as a first-language speaker, but should we be somewhat stricter with translators who are, after all, word smiths?

By the way, I knew about the well x good but deliberately chose "good" because it is less ambiguous and because I can (because no-one pays me to write here). If this was for a client, you can bet I would have written "well".


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:43
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Quality of English May 4, 2008

Hi Charlie,

You wrote:
I'm not unduly bothered by the quality of English in the emails. I'm not asking for English. I would probably be more concerned if I were.


Could you please elaborate on this? Thanks


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:43
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Don't outsource if you have no trusted translators May 4, 2008

With all respect, Samuel, but at the root of the problem lies the fact that you tried to outsource jobs for which you had no translators at hand. It is ok to aquire a translator base using proz or other sites, but then you have to test them before you take on paid jobs.
I have made this same mistake years ago but then stopped outsourcing all together.

When I quote on a job at proz I generally write: No free samples, pls send me the files for evaluation.
And I quite often get the jobs I quote on.

Cheers
Heinrich


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